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USTA Backtracks

Funny thing. Just yesterday I reported on how the USTA refused to pay for Taylor Townsend’s travel to tournaments until she lost weight and ‘got fit’ despite the fact she is the number one ranked junior player in the entire world. Her mother paid for her to get to the US Open out of her own pocket.

But it seems that the USTA has already backtracked. In fact, they did so before yesterday’s article went up. I had expected the controversy to last longer, clearly. I missed the backtrack, though, until late last night.

According to Patrick McEnroe, Weasel in Chief… er… general manager of the USTA player development program, the entire kerfuffle has just been a ‘misunderstanding’ and Sheila Townsend will be reimbursed for Taylor’s travel expenses. Apparently nobody said anything about Taylor’s weight. It was only her fitness that was questioned.

Sheila Townsend, however, remembers the conversation differently. Apparently her questions about what would constitute Taylor being fit enough to play were never answered:

…“If there are numbers to go by, then you can’t argue with numbers, I understand that. I never got any definitive answers.”

Also apparently, winning a Grand Slam in the Australian Open didn’t in any way constitute ‘fit enough.’

So what made the USTA change its mind and agree to let Taylor play? Well, they don’t come right out and say it, but I’m guessing the fact that Martina Navratilova and Lindsay Davenport (the last American to win in both singles and doubles at the Australian Open in 1993, incidentally) both made angry public statements in the matter may have something to do with it.

Yeah, I wouldn’t want this woman gunning for me, either.

Suck It, USTA!

I know, I know, two Suck It articles in two weeks. I don’t usually do that. This is not me becoming a crochety old lady (though in anticipation of my glorious half-century, I have already received an invitation to join AARP). No, this is a reflection of the sheer amount of painful stupid going on in the world right now.

But let me illustrate.

(Illustration via Sports Illustrated/CNN)

This is Taylor Townsend.

Taylor is sixteen years old. She’s also the top ranked Junior Tennis player in the world. Note that: in the world. We’re not talking best in a backwater elementary school better known for competitive teacher harassment or distance spitball championships. We’re talking top junior tennis player in the entire freaking world.

The Chicago native took singles and doubles junior titles at the Australian Open earlier this year, becoming the first American to do that since 1992. She finished well up in the rankings in both singles and doubles at the French Open. She’s on every tennis fan’s list of young players to watch. In fact, she’s on the verge of going pro and becoming a household name.

And how does the US Tennis Association reward this talented girl who is noted as not only a powerhouse player, but a hard worker and excellent positive role model for the sport?

If you guessed ‘gave her an award and recommended other aspiring tennis players take a chapter from her book’ you would be wrong. If you guessed ‘refused to pay for her travel to tournaments until she loses weight’ you would be sadly right.

Taylor’s mother, Sheila, paid for Taylor’s travel to the US Open.

So what prompted this move by the USTA?

Well, it seems that Taylor lost in the first qualifying  round for a professional tournament in Vancouver.

That’s right: she lost a game. One game. an important one, I’ll grant you, but if she wore a smaller size tennis dress, what would they have done? Maybe ramped up training a bit, but that would have been it at worst.

But they have decided that because the number one ranked junior champion in the world lost one game on one day that she has to lose weight and ramp up her training.

Patrick McEnroe, general manager of the USTA’s player development program assures us all that he is really just concerned about Taylor’s health and well-being.

But you know what? If that was true, dieting is the last thing he would be asking of a sixteen year old. The human body continues to grow and develop into the twenties. It’s rare for a girl of sixteen to have finished growing up, but even if she has, the body is still sorting itself out for a few years to come. On top of this, Taylor is involved in extreme competitive sports. She needs the energy and nutrition of hearty meals to do what she’s asking of her body.

Oh, and let’s not forget that every single long term study of weight loss accomplished in any way whatsoever has shown the same results: sure, the weight comes off at first and stays off for a while. But at the end of five years, no study – and we’re talking all the way back to the first one performed in the 1950’s – has shown less than a 92% failure rate (ie: every single pound comes back) and a very high rate of gaining more weight than was lost in the first place. The younger the dieter, the worse the chances of long-term weight loss success and the higher the chances of developing an eating disorder.

Add to that the stress of trying to fit into their narrow (literally!) concept of what healthy looks like means more emotional stress, which can lead to depression and a wide variety of physical ills.

Yes, it’s all about her health, isn’t it.

Oh look! There’s a pig nesting in my oak tree!

Let the best junior player in the world play at full strength, physically and mentally. That’s how you show concern for her health.

Twistie’s Olympic Wrap Up

Friends, I have spent the last couple of weeks the way I spend every Olympic cycle: glued to the television spouting stats. That’s not the way I live my life, even though I do happen to watch a lot of television, if I’m completely honest. But sports? Not so much. If I happen across an exhibition or a competition in figure skating, I’ll watch. I have also come to find curling oddly hypnotic… but you don’t see that as often on American television, and it’s rare to run across it randomly.

But the Olympics, well, they’re something other than else.

Most of the world counts the Olympics in terms of medal counts and victories against traditional rival countries. I’m certainly not above rooting for the home team or hoping someone I’m not wild about loses, either. And yet there is a deeper meaning to these Games, one that I love – indeed, prefer – to celebrate.


No Fat Olympians?

As many of you know, I’m an Olympics junkie. I’m not a sports fan in general, but the Olympics… in spite of its flaws, in spite of scandals over the years, there’s still something profoundly special to me about the concept behind it. I want to believe in people from all over the globe coming together to marvel at the possibilities of the human body and speak a universal language of friendly competition. And yes, I have been cheering for Michael Phelps and Gabby Douglas and all the incredible athletes out there, whatever country they come from.

I was talking with a friend of a friend the other day about watching the Olympics and she said that I must be seeing a lot of great bodies. I agreed. I’m watching a lot of people who have trained their bodies to do things most of us could never dream of accomplishing.

Yeah, that wasn’t what she meant. She meant men with washboard abs and ‘zero percent body fat.’

First off, I haven’t seen a single person at the Olympics with 0% body fat. And you know why that is? Because people with 0% body fat are not alive to compete in the games or enjoy watching them. They are dead. Period. This is something a lot of people don’t seem to understand right now, but it is the truth.

Second off, while there are some amazing thin athletes and I would never take anything away from any of them, no matter where they finished in the standings, there are some equally amazing fat athletes who are kicking some serious booty over in London and I want to celebrate that fact, too.

This is the gold medal winning Italian men’s archery team. The American team looked fitter, according to current popular standards… but these are the guys who won.

350 pound weightlifter Holley Mangold almost didn’t make it to the Games because she had so much trouble finding sponsorship. Apparently heavy weight class weight lifting isn’t very feminine.

I don’t know whether she’ll medal in weight lifting, but she’s already won gold with her attitude:

I love my body. I think it’s perfect. I don’t know what my personality would be like if I wasn’t so huge. And I think it’s a great thing for me. I’ll never be skinny and I’m perfectly okay with that. As soon as I retire I will be doing cross-fit and I’m sure I’ll go crazy with health stuff. But right now I’m kind of enjoying being a super heavyweight. I kind of like it.

And I’m kind of loving her.

Chances are you haven’t heard of the fattest Olympian this year. Judo doesn’t get a lot of air time here in the US, and everybody’s afraid of showing the ‘bad example’ of somebody who they don’t want to see in a string bikini proving they can be athletic.

Ricardo Blas, Jr. continues his family’s tradition of competing in Judo at the Olympics. His father represented their country of Guam in 1988. But Blas, Jr. did his dad one better. He won his first match to get further in the competition than any other judo contestant from Guam in history.

Ricardo, I hope you’ll be back in 2016 and get even further. All four hundred eighty one pounds of you.

Win or lose, victory, tragedy, or infamy, you don’t get to the Olympics without being damn good at what you do. And isn’t the point to admire the human body and the human spirit working hand in hand to achieve greatness?

Well, that and understanding across borders and language barriers.

Olympians, I salute you, no matter your size, no matter your age, no matter your color, no matter your chances of winning medals.

Best of luck to you all.

Can Pigs Fly? You Betcha!

Oftentimes activism is about making things happen yourself.

Many of us in the fat community have bewailed the lack of attractive, sturdy exercise wear in our sizes built for our bodies, and rightly so. The hardest part of exercise and sports for a lot of us has simply been finding something appropriate to wear in the first place.

Well, there’s a chance to help a start up company get going to address just that gap in the market. They’re called Flying Pig Apparel, and they launched their Kickstarter campaign for funding yesterday.

The company intends to produce and market exercise wear especially designed for the needs of the larger woman athlete. Their designs include clever features like small weights sewn into the hems of capri pants to help keep them from riding up, longer cut tops to make room for larger breasts and bellies. The inseams on pants are reinforced so they don’t wear through. As for sizing, to avoid as much confusion as possible, they intend to market pants by hip measurement and tops by bust measurement. That means you won’t have to pull up a size chart to find out whether you wear a L or a XXXL. One number should give you a good idea.

The thing is, Flying Pig Apparel needs help from the community to get started, hence the Kickstarter campaign.

How does that work? Well, a group or company sets a goal with Kickstarter, in this case, Flying Pig Apparel is looking for start up funds of  $11,000. If you decide you wish to help out, you can go to the Kickstarter page for Flying Pig and pledge money. You don’t send money right now. You wait until their time limit for getting funding runs out – in this case on July 1-  and see whether the pledge goal has been met. If it has, you send in your money. If not, well, then you don’t owe a dime.

But if you think you might have five or ten bucks or whatever number lying around at the end of the month and you’ve been dreaming of sturdy, attractive sportswear in your size, well, you might do worse than make a pledge to help make that dream come true.

Oh, and if you pledge $50 and they reach their goal? You’ll get your choice of a free tank top or tee shirt from the line and a limited edition tote bag, as well as a video thank you from the Flying Pig team.

Not bad.

If this company gets off the ground we all benefit. And together we can make it happen.

Secrets, Sleeping and Support

Well, it’s late in the afternoon –too much Tramadol in last night’s pasta sauce I’m afraid– I just woke up to the sad but not unexpected news that Pep Guardiola has chosen not to renew his contract as sexypants manager of futbol juggernaut Barcelona and the mango I just chopped up for breakfast tastes like onion because I gambled on “is this knife clean or dirty” and lost, so I guess now is as good a time as any to admit a deep, dark secret:

I sleep with a stuffed animal.

>Richard Parker, generally referred to simply as “Tiger” (hey, not even we creative types can be creative all the time) is a six foot-long Bengal tiger and my constant bedtime companion for close to two years.

I’ve always eyed with suspicion grown women whose beds are covered with plush bunnies, fuzzy bears and other infantilizing paraphernalia. If you are old enough to afford your own bed, you are old enough to spend the night without Mister Floppers and company. Still, when Tiger came into my life, I knew we were meant to be.

Tiger has served as my go-to body pillow since I first brought him home, adherent to his duties where many other body pillows have failed. He regally bears the indignity of being used as a knee-stabilizer on nights when sleeping on my back is a must, he plays the role of “little spoon” with silent hauteur and when I need a bit of lift to write in bed, he’s got my back, literally. Not bad for being purchased while in a 3 a.m. fugue state in the Hallmark aisle of my local Walgreen’s.

My best friend in the entire universe (“and beyond!” she’d add) is also a body pillow enthusiast. She’s a big girl too but unlike me, is naturally endowed with what is known to medical science as “spectacularly ginormous bazoongas”, so much so that, when unfettered or only slightly battened down via stretch cami, they make sleeping comfortably a serious challenge.

Last year she spoke longingly of some firm looking double-pronged pregnancy pillow she saw in either a Jennifer Aniston or Jennifer Lopez movie where the lead Jennifer was in The Family Way (I don’t know, nor am I interested, in what the movie is called. Best friend though she is, she also has the singularly worst taste in movies of any person I’ve ever met, despite having a Very Impressive Degree in film something or other).

A bit of Google-Fu led me to the Leachco Back ‘N Belly Contoured Body Pillow.

It’s her birthday on Saturday (Happy Birthday, Girl!) and this was my gift. Her initial response was “Oh Girl I ruvs it!” which is always a good sign.

I don’t have one myself, but were my sleeping arrangements other than they are, I would willingly retire Tiger in exchange for something that supported my back, thighs and stomach (my gals are travel-sized so don’t really do much of anything but sit there and tell me when it’s cold).

What about you? Would you wrap yourself in a double-sided body pillow or do you prefer some other method?

The Monday Hotness: Finders Keepers Edition

You know, it’s been a long little while since we’ve jump-started the week with some old-fashioned hotness and frankly, I’m not okay with that.

In a way, you have a gas station attendant in Ensenada to thank for what we are about to receive.

Yesterday, the fella and I decided to take a daytrip south of the little port city to avail ourselves of the fresh mountain air, see La Bufadora (purportedly the second biggest blowhole in North America), check out a potential relocation spot for Villa Plumcake and –fingers crossed– watch some jerkface surfers get eaten by sharks.

Disappointingly, the local great whites must’ve given up jerkface for Lent, and having grown up inside the Washington D.C. Beltway I can attest that not only is La Bufadora NOT the second biggest blowhole in North America, it wasn’t even the second biggest blowhole on my street. Still, the air was great, the mountains resplendent and the ocean view was well worth (okay, almost well worth) the disappointment of not seeing any great white gore fests.

Of course neither of us could focus on the air, mountain, blowhole or lack of shark-related brutality because we were too busy trying to remember the name of Barcelona’s dishy (okay, only I called him dishy) goalkeeper after seeing his doppeltwinsy pumping gas at a roadside fuel-and-taco emporium. This went on for three hours.

The keeper in question was, of course, young miss Victor Valdes.

I’ve got to be honest here, he’s never really steamed my tamale. Sure, he’s a good-looking fella, but his smolder is so self-satisfied that it leapfrogs straight over Sexy and lands in Unintentionally Hilarious Homoerotic Meathead.


P.S. I really hope the stylist put those back in Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”video before Dave Gahan slaps someone silly.

Then I started thinking, in the way I so often do, about my favorite goal keepers. As it turns out Valdes, despite being considered one of the world’s best boys in the box (shut your mouth!) was only #3 behind Pepe Reina and Saint Iker for Ethpana’s 2010 World Cup national team.

Oh Pepe.

As any Liverpool fan will say, or more appropriately sing (to the tune of Guantanamera) “One Pepe Reina. There’s only one Pepe Reina.”

but wouldn’t it be nice if there were several?

If Victor Valdes is the guy at the bachelorette party you make your friends SWEAR never to mention again, second-generation goalkeeping legend Pepe Reina is the guy you marry and have a half-dozen athletically gifted children with, all while praying they get your hairline.

A lovable goofball, Reina was described as both the best dancer in the Liverpool Football Club and, much more interestingly, “the longest in the shower” on more than one occasion.

Of course we couldn’t mention the prince and the queen (Reina means Queen in Spanish) without taking a moment for Sara “If This Boob Job Doesn’t Convince You I’m a Serious Journalist I Don’t Know What Will” Carbonero’s infinitely better half,  Real Madrid keeper and captain of the World Cup-winning Spanish National Team, Iker Casillas.

We’ve featured Saint Iker on The Monday Hotness before, but just as a little refresher, here’s a teensy taste of why it’s a bad idea to throw something at a person who catches flying objects for a living.

I’ve said it before: Competence is so sexy.


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